The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Are we finally having a constructive discussion about security?

The Boston Globe thinks it's time to do away with the TSA:

Let’s face it: The Transportation Security Administration, which annually costs taxpayers more than $7 billion, should never have been created. The responsibility for airport security should never have been federalized, let alone entrusted to a bloated, inflexible workforce. Former TSA administrator Kip Hawley calls it “a national embarrassment that our airport security system remains so hopelessly bureaucratic” and warns that “the relationship between the public and the TSA has become too poisonous to be sustained.” More tests and more failures won’t fix that. Scrapping the TSA would.

Fearmongers might howl, but abolishing the agency wouldn’t make air travel less secure. Given the TSA’s 95 percent failure rate, it would likely make it more secure. The airlines themselves should bear the chief responsibility for protecting planes and passengers at airports. After all, they have powerful financial incentives to ensure that flights are free of danger, while at the same time minimizing the indignities to which customers are subjected. Their bottom line would be at stake. The TSA feels no such spur.

I am posting this from an airplane, by the way. I understand that this has the potential for tragic irony.

Leg #2

Cooling my heels (just what does that cliche mean, anyway?) at JFK. I miss New York. I don't want to live here again, but I do like visiting.

I mean, look:

That might look a little better if I could get Lightroom to work on my Surface Pro. Time to reinstall it, again.


Some rules of flying:

  1. Schedule your outbound flights so that delays are inconvenient but not fatal to the purpose of your trip. 
  2. Know that the atmosphere is immense, and airplanes are small. Ground holds happen for very good reasons, all of them about you surviving the flight. 
  3. Charge your phone. 

So, yeah, we're on a hold pad for another half hour... 

Let the mileage run commence

For the next 52 hours, I'll be traveling, for a really horrible reason. I'm not traveling for work, nor really for vacation, though I will admit to enjoying it (in a way my friends don't really understand).

No, I'm trying to keep my American Airlines elite status for another year, because so far in 2015 I have traveled less than in any year of the past 10. So tonight I'm flying to New York, tomorrow to Los Angeles, then back to Chicago on Saturday evening, about 5,500 miles total.

The routing provided not only the best ratio of miles to dollars I could find, but also the chance to fly on American's new A321T and B787-8 airplanes. So far it looks like I'll be in coach on both, as AA3 on a Friday may be one of American's most profitable (read: both premium cabins are paid for rather than upgrades) and the 787 is new enough that lots of dweebs like me are flying on it even if it takes us out of the way. (I'll be taking it on a LAX-DFW segment Saturday afternoon.)

I did bring my real camera, and also I scheduled a full 24 hours in L.A., so this won't be a completely intangible trip. I've also got a couple of books with me. And I really do love flying. So it's not torture, and if I can eke out Platinum for one more year, not pointless.

Next report from New York.

Crowdsourcing QA

Scott Hanselman has a good rant today about how software developers increasingly use their own customers to do quality-assurance (QA) testing:

Technology companies are outsourcing QA to the customer and we're doing it using frequent updates as an excuse.

This statement isn't specific to Apple, Google, Microsoft or any one organization. It's specific to ALL organizations. The App Store make it easy to update apps. Web Sites are even worse. How often have you been told "clear your cache" which is the 2015 equivalent to "did you turn it on and off again?"

I see folks misusing Scrum and using it as an excuse to be sloppy. They'll add lots of telemetry and use it as an excuse to avoid testing. The excitement and momentum around Unit Testing in the early 2000s has largely taken a back seat to renewed enthusiasm around Continuous Deployment.

But it's not just the fault of technology organizations, is it? It's also our fault - the users. We want it now and we like it beta.

It would be nice, of course, if shops made sure show-stopping bugs didn't make it to production. But otherwise I'm OK with the balance of new features and frequent updates. Things evolve.

Don't selfie secrets

By "secrets" I mean any data you don't want known to the public. In a recent incident (via Schneier), that should include posting a selfie of yourself holding a winning betting ticket:

A woman has lost $825 she won betting on the 2015 Melbourne Cup after she posted a photo of herself holding the winning ticket on Facebook.

According to The Daily Mail, a woman named Chantelle placed a $20 bet on the 100-to-1 shot Prince of Penzance at this year’s Melbourne Cup, Australia’s most prestigious Thoroughbred horse race.

Chantelle believes that though her fingers were covering up part of the ticket’s barcode in her selfie, a “friend” on her profile might have used her photo and [another photo of the ticket] to piece together the complete barcode, run it through an automated machine, and claim the winnings themselves.

So, kudos to Chantelle for knowing not to post the entire barcode, but, um, maybe she shouldn't have posted any of it?

On Veterans Day

Via James Fallows, the story of a marine hit by an IED; something to think about on this anniversary of another war's end:

Some now call it the Forever War, and every day that name grows more appropriate.

Soldiers are dying again in Iraq. President Obama extended the mission in Afghanistan through 2017 after the city of Kunduz fell to the Taliban in October. Leaked classified documents reveal a barely acknowledged drone war in Somalia and East Africa. Plus strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, direct action raids against ISIS leaders, a proxy war in Syria and al-Anbar. Between 1975 and 2000—in Grenada, Panama, the First Gulf War and Somalia—the United States fought a total of twelve days of conventional ground combat. Since October of 2001, it hasn’t ceased.

This longest war in American history has created a warrior caste. Less than one percent of the US population, the “Other One Percent,” served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Nearly half of those veterans completed two or more tours, and 51,000 of them, a Spartan-esque subculture than would barely fill Yankee stadium, have deployed six or more times. The Delta operator who fell in Iraq in October was on his fourteenth tour.

Our professional military is staffed entirely by volunteers. Returning to combat this often is a choice, and our culture has turned to explanations from camaraderie to adrenaline to economics to explain this drive.

But this Veterans Day, it is worth considering another reason, unique to our current conflict: saving a life within a very small world. So small, in fact, that using small world theory, the math tells us that statistically they are not saving the lives of strangers, but of known quantities.


More meetings, less reading

More things I haven't read yet:

And a customer technician spent 90 minutes over two days worth of conference calls denying that something obviously his responsibility was not, in fact, his responsibility, until a network tech from his own company said it was.

Too much to read

I'm totally swamped today, so here are the things I haven't read yet:

Twenty minutes until my next meeting.